Archive for September, 2008

Sun columnist gets noticed

Don McNay, a syndicated columnist from Richmond, Ky., who is regularly published by The Winchester Sun, was recently mentioned by Editor & Publisher for the column he wrote about the financial meltdown.

Dave Astor of E&P writes on Sept. 23: Like David Sirota did yesterday, another syndicated columnist has released an extra piece about America’s financial meltdown.

He’s Don McNay, and the Kentucky-based columnist writes: “The rush to spend $700 billion and reshape the world economic system reminds me of the rush-up to the current war in Iraq. We are being asked to make a hasty decision by officials whose data we can’t verify and who haven’t done that great of a job. There is a push to ‘ignore the fine print’ and get on with things.”

McNay also makes some interesting points about how Republican Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning — who the columnist usually disagrees with — had better instincts about America’s economic problems than many other politicians.

To read Don’s column, go to www.donmcnay.com. To read more in Editor & Publisher, go to www.editorandpublisher.com.

What is good journalism?

Journalism
that matters

Note: The Winchester Sun is publishing a series of ads on excellence in newspapers. On Sunday night, in anticipation of being interviewed for the ad series, I made some notes as I thought about what excellence means to me as an editor.

Good journalism matters. Whether it’s an investigative story that reveals a problem that must be corrected or a feature story that touches hearts, good journalism makes a difference in people’s lives.
The world of media is changing warp speed, and it’s important that small community newspapers like the Sun also change rapidly. We must become multimedia companies that deliver vital information quickly, accurately and in many formats, but especially on the Internet.
However, there are values and traditions in this profession that must never change.
Newspapers are a different kind of business; we’re the only private enterprise specifically protected by the Constitution, and the reason we’re protected is that we’re necessary to the functioning of democracy.
I agree with professor Tom Rosentiel and former Atlanta Constitution editor Bill Kovach that the first purpose of journalism — from the country weekly to the major television networks — is to tell the truth without bias and provide people the information they need to govern themselves and build community.
That must always remain priority number one.
The best papers, like the Sun, have always been those that are owned by families who consider them a sacred trust.
Although newspapers have always been successful businesses, the irony is that the most successful papers are those that put the public interest before profits — because people trust that kind of paper and want it to be part of their lives.
I’m fortunate to have an exceptionally talented and dedicated staff who understand the importance of being innovative, and who also are serious journalists who are focused on the civic mission of newspaper journalism.
Winchester is my home. I grew up in Clark County and worked for 25 years for newspapers in other Kentucky communities before returning here three years ago to realize my dream of being the managing editor of my hometown daily, The Winchester Sun.
I want to continue to improve at this job until I get it right.

Judge not (lest ye be wrong)

Earlier this week in my blog entry about whether state judges should be elected or appointed, I mentioned that I had seen one of our candidates, Judge Jeff Walson, at three different events in one weekend: the Clark County Fall Roundup, Berea’s Spoonbread Festival and The Jamboree at the Leeds Center for the Arts in downtown Winchester. I also noted that I hadn’t seen his opponent, Judge Bill Clouse, at all this year, and assumed that he wasn’t campaigning as hard, at least not in Clark County.

A few days later, one of my Facebook friends, Don McNay of Richmond, a financial adviser, newspaper columnist and fellow political junkie, found my take on the race at odds with his own.

“We’ve seen little sign of Walson here (other than the Spoonbread appearance), and Clouse is everywhere,” he wrote. “Yard signs, bumper stickers, and every little store has his cards.”

From talking to folks on both sides of the river, Don believes almost all of the lawyers in Madison are for Clouse and almost every one in Clark is for Walson.

You may recall that was similar to the situation in the last judges race here, when Winchester attorney David G. Perdue carried Clark, but Richmond lawyer Earl-Ray Neal won the race because he won the Madison County vote quite convincingly.

As Madison County is twice as big as Clark, Clouse would seem to have an advantage. But Walson is quite popular here, and one lawyer friend told me Walson is well-liked and respected in Richmond, too, so I wouldn’t want to venture a guess as to who the frontrunner is at this point. It could be interesting.

I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts. Please comment at the end of this post.

How to judge judges?

Judge Jeff Walson has really been getting around lately.

On Friday night, I was taking pictures at the Clark County Fall Roundup out at Stock Farm, and the judge was there talking with voters. I also met some of his campaign volunteers, who were serving beans, slaw and apples at the cookout.
The next morning, I was at Berea’s Spoonbread Festival, and there he was again, campaigning.
And on Saturday night, when my family and I were attending the Jamboree at the Leeds, he was there, entertaining the audience as part of a “Hee Haw” skit, and, the program included a plug for his campaign.
I’ve known Jeff, though not well, since high school, and I also know his opponent, Judge Bill Clouse, from when Bill was a state senator from Madison County.
Judge Clouse has not been quite as visible in this election in Clark County. I haven’t seen him at all, although I heard me made a brief appearance at the Roundup.
I like both men, and from what I’ve heard about them, they’re both good judges. But I can’t tell you who I will vote for any more than either one of them could tell you how they will rule on a legal matter.
I was impressed with Walson last fall when, as a member of the Leadership Winchester class, I got to hear him discuss, somewhat candidly, the pleasures and disappointments of being a family court judge.
Ordinarily, though, judges don’t talk much about their work.
I learned from covering the courts in Madison County for seven years as a reporter for The Richmond Register that judges don’t discuss cases publicly except from the bench.
They also can’t talk about issues in an election because doing so could call into question their independence.
That has always seemed to me to be a paradox: How can voters choose candidates in an election if they can’t judge where the candidates stand on the issues?
And if they can’t talk about the issues, should judicial positions be elective?
That’s long been a subject of debate. In some states, like Kentucky, judges are elected at every level, from district court to the state Supreme Court. In other states, they’re appointed. And in some, there’s a third option that is a hybrid of the elective and appointive systems.
As former Gov. Ernie Fletcher demonstrated as well as any governor ever has, political appointments can be quite partisan and don’t always mean that the best person gets the job. However, electing judges in a contest in which issues can’t be discussed means turning the election into a popularity contest — or one in which one side or the other can buy more name recognition.
Under the third option, of which one of the early examples was the Missouri Plan, a few candidates are chosen by a merit selection panel, and then the governor chooses one of the vetted candidates. But even that method is not without problems. Critics argue that the merit process is to open to control behind the scenes from bar insiders, trial lawyers and politicians.
Still, I think that an appointment process that involves merit screening by a nonpartisan committee of professionals is probably the best way to do it.
What do you think? I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Introducing 'Newer World'

The title of this blog, “Newer World” comes from Tennyson by way of Bobby Kennedy. I have been inspired by Kennedy for his courage and compassion, which were rooted in his Christian faith. And as a 48-year-old man, Tennyson’s “Ulysses” reminds me that age doesn’t have to hinder one from beginning new adventures, learning new things and making a difference in the lives of others.

Blogging is itself a new adventure for me — and I hope, one in which I will learn things and make a difference for others.

I’ve been a community journalist in Kentucky for more than 25 years, but I didn’t start writing for online publication until I became the managing editor of my hometown newspaper, The Winchester Sun, nearly three years ago. Since then, this paper has redesigned both its print edition and Web site, started posting videos, slide shows and a daily Webcast, created an online interactive calendar, and now we have created our first real blogs.

We have blogs on sports, local government, education and lifestyles, and it’s likely we’ll have others in the near future. (You can access all of our other blogs at kyvoice.com and www.winchestersun.com)

As for my own blog, it will be personal and reflect my views, not those of this newspaper, just as a column does. In fact, some of my columns will be included. Most of the entries, however, will be concise.

In particular, Newer World will be a place where I will post commentaries about four areas of particular interest to me: journalism, culture, faith and democracy. I hope you will join me there in dialogue about these matters. Let’s learn from one another.

So, to quote Tennyson, ”Come, my friends, ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world … to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’”

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